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With a foreword by Roméo Dallaire and an introduction by Carol Off. No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, Finkel shadowed the men of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad as they carried out the grueling fifteen-month "surge" that changed them all forever. Now Finkel has followed many of the same men a With a foreword by Roméo Dallaire and an introduction by Carol Off. No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, Finkel shadowed the men of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad as they carried out the grueling fifteen-month "surge" that changed them all forever. Now Finkel has followed many of the same men as they've returned home and struggled to reintegrate - both into their family lives and into society at large. In the ironically titled Thank You for Your Service, Finkel writes with tremendous compassion not just about the soldiers but about their wives and children. Where do soldiers belong after their homecoming? Is it reasonable, or even possible, to expect them to rejoin their communities as if nothing has happened? And in moments of hardship, who can soldiers turn to if they feel alienated by the world they once lived in? These are the questions Finkel faces as he revisits the brave but shaken men of the 2-16. More than a work of journalism, Thank You for Your Service is an act of understanding -- shocking but always riveting, unflinching but deeply humane, it takes us inside the heads of those who must live the rest of their lives with the realities of war.


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With a foreword by Roméo Dallaire and an introduction by Carol Off. No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, Finkel shadowed the men of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad as they carried out the grueling fifteen-month "surge" that changed them all forever. Now Finkel has followed many of the same men a With a foreword by Roméo Dallaire and an introduction by Carol Off. No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, Finkel shadowed the men of the US 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Baghdad as they carried out the grueling fifteen-month "surge" that changed them all forever. Now Finkel has followed many of the same men as they've returned home and struggled to reintegrate - both into their family lives and into society at large. In the ironically titled Thank You for Your Service, Finkel writes with tremendous compassion not just about the soldiers but about their wives and children. Where do soldiers belong after their homecoming? Is it reasonable, or even possible, to expect them to rejoin their communities as if nothing has happened? And in moments of hardship, who can soldiers turn to if they feel alienated by the world they once lived in? These are the questions Finkel faces as he revisits the brave but shaken men of the 2-16. More than a work of journalism, Thank You for Your Service is an act of understanding -- shocking but always riveting, unflinching but deeply humane, it takes us inside the heads of those who must live the rest of their lives with the realities of war.

30 review for Thank You for Your Service

  1. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    "You could see it in his nervous eyes. You could see it in his shaking hands. You could see it in the three prescription bottles in his room: one to steady his galloping heart rate, one to reduce his anxiety, one to minimize his nightmares. You could see it in the screensaver on his laptop- a nuclear fireball and the words 'FUCK IRAQ'- and in the private journal he had been keeping.... 'I've lost all hope... I feel the end is near for me, very, very near. Dark- ness is all I see anymore." -Davi "You could see it in his nervous eyes. You could see it in his shaking hands. You could see it in the three prescription bottles in his room: one to steady his galloping heart rate, one to reduce his anxiety, one to minimize his nightmares. You could see it in the screensaver on his laptop- a nuclear fireball and the words 'FUCK IRAQ'- and in the private journal he had been keeping.... 'I've lost all hope... I feel the end is near for me, very, very near. Dark- ness is all I see anymore." -David Finkel- 'Thank You for Your Service' For 15 months in 2007-08, 'Washington Post' journalist David Finkel was embedded with the men of the Army's Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment (the 2-16) , during their deployment to Iraq. He wrote about this deployment in his book, 'The Good Soldiers'. In this book, 'Thank You for Your Service', which was published in 2013, Mr. Finkel revisited a number of the men of the 2-16, and through interviews, military records and his access to service members' emails, letters, and personal journals, he presents a glimpse into the lives of these veterans and their families as they struggle to resume their lives in what Mr.Finkel refers to as the 'after war' period. David Finkel provides background on a number of the veterans of the 2-16 in this book and each of the chapters allows a peak into each life... experiences in Iraq, his current health... both physical and psychological, emotional challenges and the perspectives of spouses, girlfriends and family members. An emphasis IS placed on one particular veteran, however....Sgt. Adam Schumann, who is the subject of the quote with which I began this review. Mr. Finkel catches up with Adam Schumann (age 28) two years after Schumann had walked into an aid station marked 'COMBAT STRESS' and asked for help. During his deployment, Adam had been experiencing symptoms of combat stress although no one had known he had been suffering. Adam received a mental health evacuation out of Iraq and ultimately back to a life he was finding every bit as difficult in Junction City, Kansas. Two years after Adam's return to his wife Saskia and their two young children, his life appears as unsettled and chaotic as it was the day he boarded the first flight in his long trip home. David Finkel describes Adam as appearing physically healthy... " .. out of the army and has gained back some weight.When he left the war as the great Sgt. Schumann, he was verging on gaunt. Twenty-five pounds later he is once again solid...". But Adam is still carrying invisible scars. He suffers from depression, migraine headaches, violent outbursts, mild traumatic brain injury from a mortar round which fell without warning and left him unconscious for a short period of time, PTSD... and there is the recurring nightmare that he can't seem to shake of carrying his fellow soldier, Michael Emory, across his back. Having been shot in the head, Emory's blood continuously flowed from his wound into Adam's mouth. Adam is haunted by this scene in his nightmares and can't seem to rid himself of the taste of Michael's blood in his mouth. Adam Schumann and his wife Saskia made frequent trips to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, Kansas, a 60-mile trip, so that Adam could see doctors and counselors, and of course, to pick up his many prescriptions. As Adam made the rounds of the various professionals at the hospital, Saskia waited and often wondered if the appointments, the drugs and the therapy are doing any good. She thinks about Adam's depression, his occasional violent behavior and the way his personality had changed. He wasn't the same man he had been before his deployments. She tries to remain hopeful about their future but it's clear she is struggling with maintaining her patience with Adam through his violent outbursts and his desire for isolation. She also struggles with her own feelings of depression and the stress of caring for their two children and their constant lack of money. I couldn't help but feel that Saskia could have benefited from some of the same resources that were made available to Adam. There WERE times that Saskia was invited to sit-in during Adam's therapy sessions; and it was obvious that the counselors were aware and concerned about how Adam's struggles affected the entire family. But Saskia made a point of always saying... "He's still a good guy. He's just a broken good guy." I was struck time and again while reading this book that Adam Schumann's marriage and his family.. along with the other veterans who were profiled... were in extreme crisis most of the time. Many seemed to be struggling not only with physical and psychological challenges but also extreme financial pressures. And although the doctors and counselors at the Veterans Hospital cared about their patients, their ability to address the challenges being faced often seemed ineffective or temporary. As much as one person's story can be considered 'typical', Adam Schumann's personal experiences appear hauntingly similar to all the other veterans' stories that are related in this book. The lives of these men and their families are characterized by a constant sense of chaos and crisis... anxiety, excessive alcohol consumption, sleeplessness, nightmares in which they are haunted by war experiences, quick and unexpected violent behavior and constant suicidal thoughts or multiple suicide attempts. In one shocking and painful scene portrayed in the book, Adam sits in his basement.... "It's a room of dimness and shadows. The bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling unlit, and what little light is leaking into the room feels gray and dirty. Adam is in the middle of the room, seated on a folding chair. He is faced away from her (Saskia) and holding the shotgun against the underside of his chin. His thumb is on the trigger. The safety is off.... So this is where he will die, then. Not in a Humvee... not in the war, but here in the furnace room, next to the room his daughter wants him to paint, under the room where his son is asleep , and a few inches from his terrified wife. She asks him to put the gun down. He doesn't.... He moves the barrel of the gun from his chin to his forehead. His thumb is still on the trigger. He moves the barrel back under- neath his chin and starts crying so hard that the barrel becomes wet.... He says something now , about being a bad husband, a bad father, a disappointment; about being twenty-nine and feeling ninety; about being a disgrace. His mind is roaring , and meanwhile his thumb is still on the trigger, the safety is off, the gun remains loaded and Saskia stands next to him, begging and waiting for the sound of the gun and for him to explode. And what saves him is another sound, that of Jaxson (his son). His crying comes through the floorboards, sudden and insistent..." This traumatic scene plays out many times in the lives described in this book and they never stop being disturbing and difficult to read. These men are seeking help.. showing up for appointments with endless numbers of doctors and counselors. They are carrying around grocery sacks filled with assorted pharmaceuticals and struggling to live some semblance of a 'normal' life; but the stress and hardships these families experience bleeds through on every page. David Finkel is not particularly critical of the Veterans Administration and perhaps rightly so. It's apparent that the individuals which make up this bureaucracy are trying their best to provide care for these veterans, despite appearing overburdened and perhaps underfunded and understaffed. There are also private charitable organizations which are attempting to aid veterans... one of which is located in California and operated by a veteran and former social worker named Fred Gusman. Fred founded Pathway Home, which became the first residential treatment program for veterans. Adam Schumann spent some time at Pathway Home and the time se spent there DID seem to leave him feeling calmer and more hopeful about his future... one of the true bright spots in the book. But what does this book accomplish? At first glance, David Finkel, in his honest and raw reporting on Adam Schumann and other members of the 2-16, he seems to be attempting to educate and inform the public. But the title of this book... 'Thank You for Your Service'.. led me to think more deeply about not only about the lives of these men and their families but also about the society and culture we are a part of. This book encouraged me to dig a little deeper. According to information from the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States military, which became an all-volunteer force after the draft wa ended in 1973, is now comprised of men and women who make up less than 1% of the general population of the United States (0.5%). And according to a report from the Department of Defense, 20 veterans committed suicide EVERY DAY in 2018. When thinking about the statistics I found, I was struck by the fact that although the United States has been at war for nearly 2 decades (Afghanistan and Iraq... and also conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia... among others), the men and women involved in these never-ending wars make up less than 1% of the general population! The stress and hardships being placed on this small group of people and their families is enormous and is shockingly illustrated on every page of David Finkel's book. Meanwhile, the remaining 99% of society seems to remain blissfully ignorant of the struggles and pain faced by returning veterans. I don't pretend to know what these veterans need and it seems that even the Veterans Administration and the Defense Department are struggling to answer this question. But to me, this book, 'Thank You for Your Service' asks that, as a society, we get engaged in educating ourselves about the experiences and needs of veterans and perhaps instead of offering the shamelessly inadequate platitude 'thank you for your service', we can actually find out what is needed. Maybe we can begin by demanding that our elected officials end what seems as an often casual and thoughtless commitment to endless war.It seems to me that we all need to be reminded that war and conflict should be entered into only as a last resort and after a great deal of careful and thoughtful consideration.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    finish date: 12/27/2013 If you've decided after reading about this book that it's too bleak, well, consider what the people in this book and others whose stories didn't make it into this book are going through. Or their wives, who married a guy, said goodbye to him as he deployed, and found that the man who came back home was someone entirely different. Rarely in life does a book come along that has me telling everyone I know that they have to read it. I just finished Thank You For Your Service, finish date: 12/27/2013 If you've decided after reading about this book that it's too bleak, well, consider what the people in this book and others whose stories didn't make it into this book are going through. Or their wives, who married a guy, said goodbye to him as he deployed, and found that the man who came back home was someone entirely different. Rarely in life does a book come along that has me telling everyone I know that they have to read it. I just finished Thank You For Your Service, and if you have friends or family returning from military deployment, you may find this book to be an invaluable resource. Yes, there are a number of books on PTSD out there on the market already, but trust me -- you will have never read anything like this one. Mr. Finkel's prior book The Good Soldiers, had him embedded with men in an army battalion in Baghdad during the 2007 surge. Thank You For Your Service finds him embedded yet again, but this time here in the US, after the soldiers' deployments are finished. As the dustjacket blurb states, "He is with them in their most intimate, painful, and hopeful moments" in a period he calls the "after-war," as these men begin the process of trying to recover. The book focuses on soldiers returning with "the invisible wounds of this war, including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety," causing emotional, mental and physical scars, often finding their outlet in spousal abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse and sometimes suicide. But it's not just the men -- the author also offers the viewpoints and voices of wives or girlfriends who try to adjust to their men being home but broken. In most cases, the women are simply not equipped to handle the changes and they often wonder what happened to the men they said goodbye to at the start of their deployment. The Army does offer some help for their men, but it comes largely in the form of medications -- often a high-powered combination of meds to control anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. There is also the possibility of entering Warrior Transition Battalions (WTB), but just getting in is a bureaucratic nightmare. One man had to collect over 30 signatures in a given amount of time, only to find that some of the offices he had to visit were closed or manned by inadequately-prepared staff. And although these soldiers have to sign a Contract for Safety, including a promise that if they are feeling suicidal they'll let someone know, the suicide rate continues to climb. In Washington, at least one man, General Peter Chiarelli, took the suicide rate very seriously, demanding accountability for each and every self-inflicted death at regular meetings. However, his efforts were often at the mercy of senators and other high-ranking officials, whom he had to wine and dine and who sometimes had other things that were more pressing. In trying to put together "lessons learned from the cases," details revealed that it was "difficult to learn much at all." Attempts to find patterns in the suicides remained elusive, and trying to get at a cause for both suicide and PTSD was nearly impossible: "...could the cause have something to do with the military now being an all-volunteer force, and a disproportionate percentage of those volunteering coming from backgrounds that made them predisposed to trauma?" or more importantly, "Could it have nothing to do with the soldier and everything to do with the type of war now being fought?" Have we asked too much of these men? There are other treatment options but for men like Adam Schumann, the veteran whose story is central to most of this book, it would mean, as his wife notes, "...seven weeks of no work and no pay. That's two missed house payments. Car payments, too. Electricity. Gas. Phone. Groceries." The rehab treatment place where Schumann eventually received help was saved from closing at the last minute by an anonymous donor. The soldiers and their families who agreed to participate in Finkel's work did so knowing that everything would be public and on the record, and this openness is what makes this book so haunting. Sometimes I had to put the book down, regroup emotionally, and then come back to it -- and when a book can do this, the author has done an excellent job. Most highly recommended; my favorite book of the entire year.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steven Gilbert

    Just let me say. If there was one book on my reading list from this past year that I would recommend people read it is Thank You For Your Service. And not because it is relevant (it is) or because it returns to the extraordinary lives of those first mentioned in The Good Soldiers (it does, tragically), or because the author's style, word choice and manner in which he shares these after-war stories makes them all the more real (they do). Read it because there is no better written account of the h Just let me say. If there was one book on my reading list from this past year that I would recommend people read it is Thank You For Your Service. And not because it is relevant (it is) or because it returns to the extraordinary lives of those first mentioned in The Good Soldiers (it does, tragically), or because the author's style, word choice and manner in which he shares these after-war stories makes them all the more real (they do). Read it because there is no better written account of the heartbreaking, infuriating, mind-blowing and often invisible reality of war and its never-ending consequences on the heroes and families who served. Read it because they deserve it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    “Out of one war into another. Two million Americans were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Home now, most of them describe themselves as physically and mentally healthy. They move forward. Their war recedes. Some are even stronger for the experience. But then there are the others, for whom the war endures. Of the two million, studies suggest that 20 to 30 percent have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—a mental health condition triggered by some type of terror, or tr “Out of one war into another. Two million Americans were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Home now, most of them describe themselves as physically and mentally healthy. They move forward. Their war recedes. Some are even stronger for the experience. But then there are the others, for whom the war endures. Of the two million, studies suggest that 20 to 30 percent have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—a mental health condition triggered by some type of terror, or traumatic brain injury—TBI—which occurs when a brain is jolted so violently that it collides with the inside of the skull and causes psychological damage. Depression, anxiety, nightmares, memory problems, personality changes, suicidal thoughts: every war has its after-war, and so it is with the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have created some five hundred thousand mentally wounded American veterans.” "...every war has its after-war..." This is what this book discusses as it shows example after example after example of the real-life impact of trauma. Thank You for Your Service is a dark and heavy read. The anguish of these veterans is palpable and it should be. I imagine it's like any type of pain: You will never fully understand unless you have experienced it yourself. David Finkel excels at allowing his readers to live vicariously through the people he has interviewed. Again, it's not pretty but it is absolutely necessary in order to gain an empathetic perspective. Read this book and the next time you feel the urge to thank a veteran for his or her service, let it be the start of a conversation instead of just an annual statement. Because unless we know what our precious veterans (and their families) have actually sacrificed, we have no idea what we are thanking them for. My favorite quote: “Most of all, they (veterans in a rehabilitation program) had heard explosion after explosion and seen dozens of Humvees disappear into breathtaking clouds of fire and debris, and by the end most of them had been inside such a cloud themselves, blindingly feeling around in those initial moments to determine if they were alive, or dead, or intact, or in pieces, as their ears rang and their hearts galloped and their souls darkened and their eyes occasionally filled with tears. So they knew. They knew. And yet day after day they would go out anyway, which eventually came to be what the war was about. Not winning. Not losing. Nothing so grand. Just trying until it was time to go home and discovering that life after the war turned on trying again.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gearóid

    This book is the follow on to The Good Soldiers which you should really read before starting this book. The Good Soldiers tell the true story of real soldiers on their tour of duty in Iraq. Thank Your For Your Service is the story of how these young men with horrendous mental and physical injuries try to adjust to normal life again after seeing,doing and experiencing terrible things that nobody should have to go through. It is really a very heartbreaking book to read as a lot of these young men are real This book is the follow on to The Good Soldiers which you should really read before starting this book. The Good Soldiers tell the true story of real soldiers on their tour of duty in Iraq. Thank Your For Your Service is the story of how these young men with horrendous mental and physical injuries try to adjust to normal life again after seeing,doing and experiencing terrible things that nobody should have to go through. It is really a very heartbreaking book to read as a lot of these young men are really broken and as a result their families and relationships suffer terribly. When I was reading The Good Soldiers there were some characters whom I really admired as they seemed like real leaders,brave and decent men. Some of these same brave decent men then end up with PTSD and end up suffering with anxiety,depression and anger issues but again you see the same qualities I admired in the Good Soldier when I saw how hard they fought to get well and to be as they were before the war with their families. I highly recommend this book and The Good Soldier as they are really the most hard hitting war books I have read and really shows the horror of war at an individual level.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Wow. What a gutting book! I can’t imagine being more anti war than I already was, but this book definitely removed any smidgen of doubt I had that these endless wars are destroying all of us—but especially the men that we send out there to “serve us.” Also, I would recommend Cherry as another great first hand account.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    David Finkel writes without adjectives. Because his stories are powerful enough on their own. I really can't say much about this book that will fairly reflect its emotion. From the individual stories of broken men and families, to the military brass' reviews of soldiers' suicides every part strikes a blow to your heart. These are the stories of the men whom a modern empire has tried to help after using them. Or at worst, has spat them out and forgotten. And the saddest realization is that innume David Finkel writes without adjectives. Because his stories are powerful enough on their own. I really can't say much about this book that will fairly reflect its emotion. From the individual stories of broken men and families, to the military brass' reviews of soldiers' suicides every part strikes a blow to your heart. These are the stories of the men whom a modern empire has tried to help after using them. Or at worst, has spat them out and forgotten. And the saddest realization is that innumerable troops never receive help, whether the generations who fought recently in the deserts or, indeed, older generations of the wartime jungles and fields of the twentieth-century. Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_A_Taubman

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Given the subject matter this book is sobering and depressing. Its’ about veterans returning from combat; the examples are from the Iraq war and how their lives are shattered – the war has destroyed their normality. We follow the lives of about 10 veterans and their wives. The soldiers in this book are all male. The relationship with their wives, if they were married before deployment, has altered forever and it certainly is not a better relationship. What they experienced in the war – the indiffe Given the subject matter this book is sobering and depressing. Its’ about veterans returning from combat; the examples are from the Iraq war and how their lives are shattered – the war has destroyed their normality. We follow the lives of about 10 veterans and their wives. The soldiers in this book are all male. The relationship with their wives, if they were married before deployment, has altered forever and it certainly is not a better relationship. What they experienced in the war – the indifference and at times brutality to Iraqi civilians, seeing their comrades bodies mutilated and bleeding, having their own bodies and minds damaged – never leaves them. One veteran continually has dreams of a soldier friend dying right beside him – and speaking to him. All are on several types of medication – to enable them to sleep, to stop the dreams, to suppress senseless anger mostly with family members. Some commit suicide, and most have thought of it and maybe attempted it. It would seem that war zone life is on such a vastly different plane than their “normal life” back home that these soldiers cannot re-adjust. The author makes a good point that while at war the soldiers are surrounded by comrades-in-arms; they become dependent on each other. Upon departure for home they are all alone and must cope by themselves. Their wives are obviously affected. They suffer psychological abuse – and sometimes physical abuse. They may witness suicide attempts by their husbands with the children in the house too. Some wives also end up taking medications. They and their children face the full force of the anguish of the returning veterans. They too are victims of war. As well, we get a view of how Veterans Affairs workers are impacted – their lives are also on a burnt-out. The after affects of war do not evaporate. The suicide rate of veterans keeps increasing and at the time this book was written the rate was one per day. This is an awful statistic reflecting wars’ permanence in the participants. As an additional note a possible flaw of this book is that there is no examination of veterans who have successfully re-adjusted. This book looks solely at those who are having severe problems. It would be interesting to compare those who have adjusted well to the examples provided by this book

  9. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Powerful. Still thinking about what we expect of the men and women who serve during war in the 21st century. proper rtf 4.5 Stars Read on kindle

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Novacescu

    Next time someone has something negative to say about the military as a whole, you should hand them this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Reading this book is a harrowing experience, yet I wish every adult in America--and older teenagers, come to think of it--would read it. Oh yes, and especially our political leaders. While on the one hand we may not be harassing soldiers when they come home from war now, they way it was done to Vietnam vets, on the other hand we are still not paying them enough attention. We destroy people's lives and health and then forget about them. It is sickening. Read this book, and you will understand bet Reading this book is a harrowing experience, yet I wish every adult in America--and older teenagers, come to think of it--would read it. Oh yes, and especially our political leaders. While on the one hand we may not be harassing soldiers when they come home from war now, they way it was done to Vietnam vets, on the other hand we are still not paying them enough attention. We destroy people's lives and health and then forget about them. It is sickening. Read this book, and you will understand better what our returning warriors face. Put yourselves in their shoes, and then get angry. I recommend this book most highly.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marquise

    A very enlightening and sad account by a journalist following a few US military men suffering from PTSD, and the devastating consequences it has on their spouses, children, and families. Recommended for anyone interested in exploring the issue of combat stress and PTSD from a more personal, daily-life perspective.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura Leaney

    What I loved about this book is the writing, and how completely Finkel has erased himself from the narrative, and how smoothly the reader enters the various lives of the veterans he follows, even unto death. If you pay attention to what's happening in the world, there is no possible way you can escape the knowledge that a significant number of soldiers engaged in America's current wars return suffering from PTSD and a staggering number commit suicide. I've never properly understood why such post What I loved about this book is the writing, and how completely Finkel has erased himself from the narrative, and how smoothly the reader enters the various lives of the veterans he follows, even unto death. If you pay attention to what's happening in the world, there is no possible way you can escape the knowledge that a significant number of soldiers engaged in America's current wars return suffering from PTSD and a staggering number commit suicide. I've never properly understood why such post-war horror was not seen in men who fought wars earlier in the century. Did not the veterans of WWI or II see horror? Did they not suffer concussive brain trauma? Finkel opens a scene in a Pentagon conference room called the Gardner Room "in honor of a Vietnam War soldier named James Gardner, who died on his twenty-third birthday and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor." The book outlines his heroics, which includes surviving an intense gun battle "across an open rice paddy," destroying enemy bunkers, seizing the enemy's prime position, advancing, vaulting over more bunkers, dropping grenades, before being mortally wounded. Apparently, his last words were "It's the best I can do," before dying of four gunshot wounds to the chest. Finkel writes: "and the question for the ages, or at least those gathered in the Gardner Room forty-five years later, is why some soldiers become James Gardner and some become the soldier whose final words are ""You will watch me die.'" Seriously, this is my question too. How do some soldiers acclimate back to civilian life without suffering so deeply while others cannot get out from underneath the nightmares? This book doesn't answer that question. Still, I have come away with a much deeper respect for what carrying around memories comprised of the flesh of fellow soldiers might mean. At one point, Peter Chiarelli, the army's vice chief of staff, attempts to call attention to the issue of soldier suicides by meeting with a group of doctors and researchers. The autopsy of a Marine (who'd killed himself after two combat tours) showed "evidence of a degenerative brain disease that has been associated with memory loss, confusion, depression, paranoia, and problems with impulse control, and has been seen in autopsies of athletes such as boxers and football players who have endured constant head trauma." Most of the men Finkel follows seem to have been the victims of Humvee explosions - and the description of the aftermaths of these events are ghastly. But just as often, the bombs are buried in the ground: Ciarelli asks one soldier, "how'd it happen?" The soldier starts to answer. He says, "He was walking down a trail. There was an explosion. He lost his right arm. He lost most of his left arm. he lost his right leg. He lost his left leg. He…" "Oh my goodness," the soldier says. "I forgot my train of thought." "That's okay," Chiarelli says, reaching over to touch what remains of him. The mental damage is what I found most disturbing. The disintegrating marriages and the toll on children. But ultimately, I admired the tremendous courage of the soldiers who sought help, in spite of the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the Army. They chose to live, in spite of their pain, and I'm glad of it. Their stories are profoundly moving.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alec

    As an Iraq and Aghanistan veteran, and having served in 2/508 in the same company and platoon as many of those depicted in this story and having worked with them on a daily basis for nearly two years before my transfer, I believe that the book reinforces the stereotypes of the "broken soldier" while acting as though the conflicts are responsible for many of the personal problems that were present in a population of people with misaligned personalities and bad habits. Out of dealing with many of t As an Iraq and Aghanistan veteran, and having served in 2/508 in the same company and platoon as many of those depicted in this story and having worked with them on a daily basis for nearly two years before my transfer, I believe that the book reinforces the stereotypes of the "broken soldier" while acting as though the conflicts are responsible for many of the personal problems that were present in a population of people with misaligned personalities and bad habits. Out of dealing with many of the soldiers interviewed by David Finkel, I personally spent the most with Nicholas Deninno. I'm not sure if he has changed, but this is an individual who reveled in mistreating his subordinates to the point of physical and sexual abuse that culminated in at least one soldier that I interacted with going AWOL early in my time at 2/508. His recreational abuse of prescription pills and alcohol eventually culminated in a car accident that seemed to set in motion his weepy PTSD claim, which was believed a cover to mitigate the effects of military discipline and present himself as victim rather than offender. The incident of sexual abuse in which he was present occurred after his initial hospitalization. I believe that he is either the worlds greatest pretender and his subsequent struggles are the combination of seeking fraudulent disability and inherent personality faults, or that somehow he said he had PTSD enough to convince himself that he really had it. Of the others present in the book, most surprised me that they had been experiencing personal difficulties and my prayers are with them. I do believe though, after six years in the military, that many of the people who join the army and particularly the infantry are individuals who either liked the idea of killing something or were too stupid to qualify for anything else. It isn't terribly surprising that the same people who earned $1500 after taxes and leased $60,000 cars aren't able to take care of themselves once their salaries were cut off after they left, despite the army mandating financial responsibility courses in the ACAP process. In closing I'd say that while the military has excellent public relations in the United States and the specter of Vietnam has made criticizing veterans taboo, many veterans entered the military with the same problems they exited with and several are simply bad apples.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adrianne Mathiowetz

    EVERY time I read this book on the subway, I missed my stop. Last time, I missed my stop so I got out and turned around, then got re-absorbed in the book and went too far again and had to turn back around the same way, then when I FINALLY got out at the right stop and boarded another train, I missed that NEXT stop too. I finally just got out at some random-ass location to force myself to walk because at this point it had taken me over two hours to make a dumb 45 minute journey. Also, EVERY time I EVERY time I read this book on the subway, I missed my stop. Last time, I missed my stop so I got out and turned around, then got re-absorbed in the book and went too far again and had to turn back around the same way, then when I FINALLY got out at the right stop and boarded another train, I missed that NEXT stop too. I finally just got out at some random-ass location to force myself to walk because at this point it had taken me over two hours to make a dumb 45 minute journey. Also, EVERY time I read this book on the subway, I wound up crying on the subway. This book is intense. I change apartments every 6 months. There are not many books I keep. This is a book I'm keeping.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's rather emotionally manipulative. I understand that that's the point, to get the reader emotionally involved--and it's an important story to tell, one that isn't often told about the prevalence of PTSD and mental health issues in soldiers--but it still felt manipulative. It also, by only showing soldiers with post-tour mental issues, may do a disservice to those soldiers that have less traumatic tours and come back without such severe scars I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's rather emotionally manipulative. I understand that that's the point, to get the reader emotionally involved--and it's an important story to tell, one that isn't often told about the prevalence of PTSD and mental health issues in soldiers--but it still felt manipulative. It also, by only showing soldiers with post-tour mental issues, may do a disservice to those soldiers that have less traumatic tours and come back without such severe scars. So a thumbs' up to bringing attention to the underserved, thumbs' not so far up for what feels like one side of the story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Nusair

    This book reminds me of the 90's bestseller "We were soldiers once, and young" (later a movie in 2002) and I believe it will inspire Republican filmmakers in Hollywood for the rest of this decade. David Finkel is a Pulitzer prize winner journalist and one of the big names in the Washington Post and you can see that clearly in his book about veterans who served in Iraq. Finkel reports that 20 to 30 percent of veterans who served in Iraq have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumat This book reminds me of the 90's bestseller "We were soldiers once, and young" (later a movie in 2002) and I believe it will inspire Republican filmmakers in Hollywood for the rest of this decade. David Finkel is a Pulitzer prize winner journalist and one of the big names in the Washington Post and you can see that clearly in his book about veterans who served in Iraq. Finkel reports that 20 to 30 percent of veterans who served in Iraq have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury which occurs when a brain is jolted so violently that it collides with the inside of the skull and causes psychological damage. Depression, anxiety, nightmares, memory problems, personality changes, suicidal thoughts: Every war has its after-war.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Powerful stuff, served raw, but laced with mercy and grace. An incredibly well done and important book that I highly recommend. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) are real, and an Army (literally, an Army) of young Americans are living today with PTSD and TBI after service (often multiple tours of duty) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Advances in sophisticated body armor, medevac, and health care permitted us to bring home unprecedented numbers of horribly damaged so Powerful stuff, served raw, but laced with mercy and grace. An incredibly well done and important book that I highly recommend. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury) are real, and an Army (literally, an Army) of young Americans are living today with PTSD and TBI after service (often multiple tours of duty) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Advances in sophisticated body armor, medevac, and health care permitted us to bring home unprecedented numbers of horribly damaged soldiers, but even those who appear whole simply were not so lucky. None of this is news, nor is the staggering rate of suicide that continues to plague the Army as a result. But, while trends and numbers tell one story, this book offers a unique window into - and shines an unapologetic, graphic, and bright light upon - the individuals (the damaged veterans and their damaged families) trying to survive the "afterwar," as well as the people and institutions struggling to help them. I was impressed with (and highly recommend) Finkel's The Good Soldiers, and I'm glad I read this book as well. Finkel is a gifted story-teller, but his contribution is particularly valuable in that he personalizes phenomena that easily become too big to comprehend (and, accordingly, all too easy to ignore). I wish the President and every member of Congress took the time to read this book. (I know it's also futile to hope that any significant percentage of the general population would do so.) But it would contribute mightily to any discussion of what the word "sacrifice" means. As a (fortunate) veteran (and the son of a veteran) who spent time at Fort Riley (Finkel's stateside microcosm in both books), knows many who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has spent an entire career at least tangentially engaged with the military enterprise, I found this book moving and disturbing and informative and frightening and depressing. I have no idea how most Americans - removed (emotionally and intellectually) from our military actions abroad - will react to this. But in a representative democracy, it is critically important to understand the real price of sending men and women (and boys and girls) to war. In that context, Finkel has performed a valuable public service.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    David Finkel is a reporter who has no detachment from his subject matter; he was one of the journalists who was allowed to be embedded with an infantry battalion in Iraq, and wrote his first book about that experience. For this book he maintains that same intimacy with his subjects, as he writes about many of those same soldiers, who have now returned home, but have not left the wars behind, even though back on U.S. soil. These men and their families try to resume their lives, but struggle with David Finkel is a reporter who has no detachment from his subject matter; he was one of the journalists who was allowed to be embedded with an infantry battalion in Iraq, and wrote his first book about that experience. For this book he maintains that same intimacy with his subjects, as he writes about many of those same soldiers, who have now returned home, but have not left the wars behind, even though back on U.S. soil. These men and their families try to resume their lives, but struggle with Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injuries, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, suicide, and numerous physical injuries. Finkel intersperses stories about individual veterans and their families with reports on the military's attempts to understand the disturbing increase in suicides by today's returning soldiers, and to try to develop strategies for identifying those who are most at risk. This was not an easy book to read, nor could it have been an easy book to write, but I thank this author for bringing these war veterans and their families to the attention of us all.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I'm almost at a loss in writing this because this book completely crushed me. The subject matter (the psychological struggles of Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers after returning home) makes it seem like it would be difficult to read, but the writing is so completely phenomenal that I didn't want to put it down. It's such a cliche to say "I wish every American would read this," but I really wish every American would read this. I'm almost at a loss in writing this because this book completely crushed me. The subject matter (the psychological struggles of Iraq/Afghanistan soldiers after returning home) makes it seem like it would be difficult to read, but the writing is so completely phenomenal that I didn't want to put it down. It's such a cliche to say "I wish every American would read this," but I really wish every American would read this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    So far beyond heartbreaking.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    David Finkel's harrowing/heartbreaking Good Soldiers, for which he embedded with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Iraq, was one of my favorite books of 2010. For his follow-up, Thank You For Your Service, Finkel once again embeds with the 2-16, but this time everyone's back home (or, at least, everyone who didn't get blown to bits or burned alive in the Mideast), back with their family, wives, children, loved ones.... and it's all just as harrowing/heartbreaking. These men--we follow four closely- David Finkel's harrowing/heartbreaking Good Soldiers, for which he embedded with the 2-16 Infantry Battalion in Iraq, was one of my favorite books of 2010. For his follow-up, Thank You For Your Service, Finkel once again embeds with the 2-16, but this time everyone's back home (or, at least, everyone who didn't get blown to bits or burned alive in the Mideast), back with their family, wives, children, loved ones.... and it's all just as harrowing/heartbreaking. These men--we follow four closely--although physically in one piece, are just destroyed. PTSD in all of it variations, non-stop suicide ideation, physically abusive to their wives, too many drugs, too much booze, unable to function in the world. And when they finally do ask for help, well, it's not as if that's a simple or particularly efficacious solution either. Finkel's subjects wind up in different places--from an Army program with all of its insane, maddening bureaucracy (and one for which many get turned down from even entering) that lasts I think it was six weeks; to a privately-funded, isolated retreat with a six-month stay which seems to be more effective, but these are poor families, how can they manage to keep up with living expenses if there's no income, if all of their energy is spent on getting back to some semblance of normal? Much of this is really difficult to read. These men and women are so disposable, their lives so difficult, and this all AFTER they've survived a tour or three in combat! Finkel also offers a quick look at the Army's Suicide Prevention Department (or whatever it's called), and if anything I wish he had doubled the length of the book for more big-picture stuff like this. The suicide rate is staggering, and no one seems to want to deal with it. The whole thing made me think once again about the effect of America's all-volunteer army, how because our soldiers are generally from poverty-ridden small towns and shitty city neighborhoods, all with zero political juice, you feel like no one gives a shit what happens to them overseas or back home, or at least, no one who can do anything to help (or not send them there in the first place!) gives a shit. If we still had the draft, if a senator's son or daughter could be sent on patrol in some miserable, dangerous desert village for no real purpose, what would the government's decision-making look like? Might they have actually learned something from Vietnam if they knew and cared about the people getting killed? I don't know. Powerful book, though, Mr. Finkel.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    In "The Good Soldiers," David Finkel chronicled the individual and collective experience of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, as it deployed to Iraq as part of the 2007 "surge". In "Thank You For Your Service," Finkel follows up with some of those same soldiers and describes in unflinching detail the devastating intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of the deployment. The result is a compelling story but a profoundly unpleasant reading experience. Rarely has a story with so much human In "The Good Soldiers," David Finkel chronicled the individual and collective experience of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, as it deployed to Iraq as part of the 2007 "surge". In "Thank You For Your Service," Finkel follows up with some of those same soldiers and describes in unflinching detail the devastating intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of the deployment. The result is a compelling story but a profoundly unpleasant reading experience. Rarely has a story with so much human suffering and misery lacked a true antagonist or readily identifiable source of evil. In "The Good Soldiers" the enemy was largely off-screen but still somewhat cognizable in the form of Iraqi insurgents. In "Service" the wounded soldiers (and they are all wounded to some degree) are their own enemies, alternatively terrifying and exasperating themselves and those around them with their unpredictable and often volcanic actions. Victories in this book are small and incremental, while failures are sudden and sometimes fatal. Enlisted men and generals alike are left grasping at straws in an effort to alleviate the crisis, and it's not clear that anyone is capable of implementing a real solution. Whereas these soldiers once fought as members of one team against a common enemy, they are now cut off from each other and the larger world and left to fight their own battles with only intermittent assistance. The brief story of what one military family did to acquire that assistance (the only family in the book that remains anonymous) is one of the most shocking and disturbing stories I've ever encountered. It stood out for me even among a host of other tragic scenes. "The Good Soldiers" was an excellent entry within a sizable category of war zone journalism that gave readers a better appreciation for the immediate human cost of war. "Thank You For Your Service" stakes its own ground as a brutal revelation of the war's ongoing human cost, which will continue for decades after the last soldiers leave Iraq and Afghanistan. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book-length work of journalism about the consequences of PTSD, TBI, and other psychological injuries from the post-9/11 era, and it is exceptional. Timely, well-written, and addressing an overlooked topic of major significance, this is one of the best non-fiction books of 2013.

  24. 4 out of 5

    PDXReader

    I read Finkel's other book, The Good Soldiers, last year, and found it a very interesting account of young men at war. Thank You For Your Service follows several of the soldiers we were introduced to in the first book as they attempt to readjust to life back home. Finkel chooses to concentrate on those with "invisible wounds" - PTSD and TMI (traumatic brain injury), the hallmark wounds of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. He portrays these soldiers as profoundly damaged, and the various programs availab I read Finkel's other book, The Good Soldiers, last year, and found it a very interesting account of young men at war. Thank You For Your Service follows several of the soldiers we were introduced to in the first book as they attempt to readjust to life back home. Finkel chooses to concentrate on those with "invisible wounds" - PTSD and TMI (traumatic brain injury), the hallmark wounds of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. He portrays these soldiers as profoundly damaged, and the various programs available to them to help them recover. Unfortunately, the pictures he paints are pretty bleak; none of them seems to be firmly on the road to recovery by the book's end, and their wives in particular are barely holding life together. It's actually a pretty sad, if telling book. Certainly Finkel helped me gain more understanding of what these soldiers go through in trying to put their lives back in order. Good companion books would be The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner and The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Eisenberg

    Thank You For Your Service is a 5-star book. I feel like any reviewer who suggests otherwise reveals him/herself to be an idiot by doing so. It is superbly well researched and superbly well written. It is an amazing book. But it is not a pleasant read. Thank You For Your Service illustrates, in great detail, the physical and psychological damage done to many of the warriors---and, subsequently, their families---who served in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 2 decades. The persons (subjects) w Thank You For Your Service is a 5-star book. I feel like any reviewer who suggests otherwise reveals him/herself to be an idiot by doing so. It is superbly well researched and superbly well written. It is an amazing book. But it is not a pleasant read. Thank You For Your Service illustrates, in great detail, the physical and psychological damage done to many of the warriors---and, subsequently, their families---who served in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 2 decades. The persons (subjects) who populate the book afforded author David Finkel extraordinary access to their lives/thoughts/feelings. The result is an excruciatingly intimate glimpse into lives shattered by war. It is not a pleasant read. It's a painful read. But a worthwhile one. There is value to gaining a greater understanding of and appreciation for the sacrifice and suffering that a small percentage of Americans endure as a result of providing military service for our country.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sleepless Dreamer

    I had expectations for this book that didn't happen. I hoped that in this book I'd get to know specifically soldiers but also that I'd get the bigger picture. I guess this book lacked a stronger narrative. It felt like many dismembered scenes. I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters. It was like "oh, there's this couple and what wait who tried to die who is this is this a new character". I think this could have been built better. Ultimately, this is a very important book but thi I had expectations for this book that didn't happen. I hoped that in this book I'd get to know specifically soldiers but also that I'd get the bigger picture. I guess this book lacked a stronger narrative. It felt like many dismembered scenes. I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters. It was like "oh, there's this couple and what wait who tried to die who is this is this a new character". I think this could have been built better. Ultimately, this is a very important book but this doesn't feel like a good enough book about this. what I'm taking with me • PTSD is awful. • Army hierarchy is just so ridiculous and stupid. I can't believe this actually takes space in the lives of people. • I'm so sad there isn't enough to be done to combat suicide.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    The follow up to his "The Good Soldiers", Finkel tells the challenges faced by some of the men from the 2-16th and their families as they attempt to find a sense of life after their war experiences. Also introduced is the Army's and Veteran structures set up to help the some 500,000 wounded (mentally or physically) from Iraq and Afghanistan. The hopelessness of some of the men (and their families) was frightening. The financial problems, family violence, guilt, anger, depression all were made eve The follow up to his "The Good Soldiers", Finkel tells the challenges faced by some of the men from the 2-16th and their families as they attempt to find a sense of life after their war experiences. Also introduced is the Army's and Veteran structures set up to help the some 500,000 wounded (mentally or physically) from Iraq and Afghanistan. The hopelessness of some of the men (and their families) was frightening. The financial problems, family violence, guilt, anger, depression all were made even sadder in one chapter where veterans from Vietnam and even WWII were still suffering. After all these wars we still don't get the cost to the soldiers and their families.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was very hard to read for many reasons. It paints such a bleak picture for returning soldiers and not the reality I'm familiar with, though I know it's very real for most. I had to skim through some parts because it became very repetitive and I'm still not 100% sure the intention of the book. If just to heighten awareness of such a horrible reality then it definitely worked, but could have been done slightly differently in my opinion. I wish there were much more effective resources for thes This was very hard to read for many reasons. It paints such a bleak picture for returning soldiers and not the reality I'm familiar with, though I know it's very real for most. I had to skim through some parts because it became very repetitive and I'm still not 100% sure the intention of the book. If just to heighten awareness of such a horrible reality then it definitely worked, but could have been done slightly differently in my opinion. I wish there were much more effective resources for these soldiers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kc Giannini

    4.5 I highly recommend reading The Good Soldiers right before reading this. That's what I did and I think I appreciated this book more because of it. It kind of gave me closure to these particular guys' stories. It was very eye opening to read. I mean, in the media we read short accounts and statistics of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but we never get to put a name to the face and really read about the struggle to get on with their lives after the horror that they had to liv 4.5 I highly recommend reading The Good Soldiers right before reading this. That's what I did and I think I appreciated this book more because of it. It kind of gave me closure to these particular guys' stories. It was very eye opening to read. I mean, in the media we read short accounts and statistics of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but we never get to put a name to the face and really read about the struggle to get on with their lives after the horror that they had to live with for years during their multiple deployments.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mackay

    Maybe because the first book, The Good Soldiers, provided such an indelible experience, this one didn't have quite the impact. Or maybe it's because it's so very sad and so very depressing. It's still an enormously important report ... the war at home, what it does after the soldiers come home, what it does to their families while they are deployed AND after they come home, how it is to survive, whether as soldier or spouse. Maybe because the first book, The Good Soldiers, provided such an indelible experience, this one didn't have quite the impact. Or maybe it's because it's so very sad and so very depressing. It's still an enormously important report ... the war at home, what it does after the soldiers come home, what it does to their families while they are deployed AND after they come home, how it is to survive, whether as soldier or spouse.

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